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Engine Mix Steady; CVTs Soar

Engine Mix Steady; CVTs Soar

A WardsAuto survey sees modest gains in 4-cyl. LV engines in ’16-models, while auto transmissions get more speeds and CVTs soar.

An exclusive WardsAuto survey of engines installed in ’16-model domestic and import light vehicles shows a modest increase in the use of engines having less than six cylinders to 54.3% at the midway point in the model run from 50.5% for the entire ’15 model year.

That gain is due entirely to a larger number of 4-cyl. engines, powering 53.4% of the 17,311,335 ’16 models tallied in the survey period compared with 49.6% of the 19,645,917 units counted in ʼ15.

It marks the highest rate of 4-cyl. application in six years, rising from 43.5% in model year ’10. It also surpassed the prior modern-day peak of 52.2% established in the ’14 model run, before a series of staggered introductions and a surge of large V-8-powered pickups and CUVs trimmed the percentage of 4-cyl. LVs in ’15.

The interplay between 4- and 8-cyl. engines also is evident in the dip in V-8 installations in ’16 to 13.8% after the brief surge to 17.4% the prior year.  The mid-’16 tally is the lowest take-rate for V-8s for any of the past six model years.

Although the current surge in light-truck production could have some effect on 4- and 8-cyl. engine rates by the time the ’16 model run closes, the impact likely would be negligible.

At the same time, the use of 6-cyl. engines remains steady at 31.3% in the partial ’16 run compared with 31.4% of the entire ’15 count.

Given this year’s low fuel prices, it is not surprising electric vehicles comprise just 0.5% of the ’16 tally, down from 0.6% in ’15, while hybrids account for 1.7% of the ’16 models surveyed compared with 2.2% the prior year. The highest hybrid penetration rate was 3.5% in model year ’13.

Meanwhile, the use of turbocharged gasoline engines surges to a record 22.8% in the ’16 survey from prior-year’s 17.3%, while that of turbodiesels is down sharply to 2.6% from 5.4%

The diesel decline is due mostly to Volkswagen’s withdrawal from the ’16 diesel-car market following the Dieselgate scandal and it remains to be seen if the engines in general can stage a comeback any time soon.

At the same time, the use of 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions rise to a combined 13.9% of ’16 LVs, up from 13% the prior year. In its fourth year of availability, the 8-speed unit alone claims a 10.4% share, more than double the 4.0% garnered in ’12, when it was surveyed for the first time.

Over the 4-year period, the venerable 4-speed automatic falls from a 7.6% share to a mere 0.7% in ’16, as it rapidly headed toward oblivion. The 5-speed automatic is not far behind after declining to 3.6% from 17.8% over the same timeframe.

Despite a checkered history of on-and-off usage, the CVT recently has enjoyed a continued growth spurt, peaking at a record 19.1% so far in ’16. That marked a fourth consecutive record beginning at 9.6% in ’13, erasing the prior high of 9% in ’10.

CVT use slipped to a recent-year low of 7.1% in ’11, before edging up to 7.6% in ’12, just ahead of its recent run.

Manual transmissions continue to captivate a select, if declining, number of LV buyers. The installation of 5-, 6- and 7-speed manuals falls to 3.2% in the ’16 survey from 3.9% the prior year and 6-year high of 6.7% in ’13.

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